DETROIT ROCK CITY, MI: There’s nothing like a long weekend in a Detroit suburb to make you thankful for your city’s sports teams. What do these people have to look forward to here? Another one and done playoff run for the Lions? It’s ugly in these parts… but not as ugly as Tiger Woods’s mugshot – or Bryce Harper’s helmet throw. Then again, who am am I to judge? Speaking of judging, how about that Aaron Judge? (My entry for the worst segue contest).
Coming up to a third of the way through the season, Judge hasn’t really slowed down much, as predicted by many. With the Yanks opening a bit of a lead in the AL East, let’s talk a look and see what we’ve learned about the Yanks’ star right fielder so far.
Judging a Book by Its Cover
The comparisons to Derek Jeter are massively premature, but there’s something Jeterian (excuse the John Sterling-ism) about him. The guy is all business on the field but all humility off it. He doesn’t seem overly impressed with himself, and carries himself as if everything is going as planned.
The red flag last year was Judge’s eye-popping strike out rate. This guy didn’t see a breaking pitch in the dirt that he didn’t like. Judge struck out 42 times in exactly half of his 84 at bats in only 27 games. Yikes. I think I struck out in half of my little league at bats when I was eight. But I hardly ever cried.
This year he’s struck out 53 times in 159 at bats in 45 games. That’s still about a third of the time, but it’s a huge improvement. His improved patience has been striking. It’s not just that his walk rate has improved, but he’s been getting into better counts by laying off the junk.
Sober as a Judge
The Yankees took a chance by bringing him up in August last year. The team was in contention for a wild card spot and the high pressure environment was a tough place for on the job training. Judge showed flashes, but hit an ugly .179.
It’s interesting to note that Judge hit only .224 in 2015, his first season in Triple A. But the next season he raised his batting average to .270, with 19 homers and 65 RBIs in 93 games. He took a year to figure it out. So far, his major league career is following a similar pattern.
Judge hit his 17th dinger on Monday, taking the league lead back from Mike Trout. He’s in the top 10 in on base percentage, slugging percentage, and runs scored. You want fancy modern stats? He’s number 2 in WAR (wins above replacement player) to Trout. He’d take Rookie of the Year easily if the season ended today and has the stats to warrant some MVP consideration to this point.
And if you think a 280-pounder would be a liability on defense, you’d be wrong. Judge has shown off a strong arm and a willingness to throw his body around. He’s had two memorable catches – going into the front row in Boston, and the game saving full extension grab and double play in Tampa.
Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged Yourself
This kid looks legit. Tell Bryce Harper and his slippery helmet he’ll have to look elsewhere when he becomes a free agent, the Yanks are set in right field.
Come back tomorrow for @Angry_Ward, who once was an alternate judge in a belly-flop contest. Follow us on Twitter at @benwhit, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.